Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to get the U.S. government to allow him to bar New York City’s 1.7 million food stamp recipients from using government cash to buy soda or other sugared drinks. The state, which administers food stamps locally, has already signed on to the request. A similar request in 2004 from the state of Minnesota was turned down, since the Agriculture Department said the plan would “perpetuate the myth” that food-stamp users make bad shopping decisions. Still, Bloomberg and his health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, says the ban will help slow the city’s obesity epidemic. Nearly 40 per cent of New York City’s public school children from kindergarten to eighth grade are overweight or obese, and numbers are much higher in poor neighbourhoods, where the consumption of sugary drinks is also higher. The ban would affect beverages with over 10 calories per 8 ounces, and wouldn’t affect fruit juice without added sugar, milk products or milk substitutes.